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  • Jumping the Broomstick September 30, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback


    Here’s an account from the marches of Yorkshire and Lancashire. It involves a very unusual folk wedding in the late nineteeenth or the early twentieth century.

    One of the strangest sights that I ever saw in my early inn days was a ‘brush steyl’ wedding at an inn on the Stanedge Road. We had been out with two dogs, and in the evening went along Millstone Edge under the Dinner Stone, for my father wanted to look at a gamecock that was kept at one of the farms and was matched to fight. There were about half-a-dozen local men in the taproom and two strangers, a man and a woman sitting on a form under the window. They were talking very earnestly together, and lad-like I watched them intently, for I had never before seen a woman sitting with men in an inn. They were on the road, and tramping in opposite directions had met and entered the house. The landlord came into the room with a long sweeping brush in his hand and covered from head to foot with a white gown. It was his wife’s nightdress, and looked like a parson in a preaching surplice. He stood in the middle of the room and asked the strangers if they were ready. They both got up, and the man said ‘yes’, then the woman asked if they would be properly wed. The landlord said that they would be married as bindingly as if it had taken place at the parish church, for it was the custom of the country.

    There follows the ritual. Beach would love to find other accounts. This is the best and most vivid he has come across to date. Any other brush weddings? drbeachcombing AT yahoo Dot com

    He then gave the long brush to two men, who took hold of it at each end and held it horizontally about a half a yard above the floor. Then he told the woman to jump over it. She took a faded old shawl from her shoulders and laid it on the table, then she pulled her skirts up a little and, taking a run from the taproom door, jumped clean over the extended brush. The man followed her, but the woman jumped better than he did, and the landlord said that she would jump over a house if there were a man on the other side. He then opened a prayer book, and having read a portion of the wedding service he gave the man a ring, which looked as if it had come off a dog’s collar. The bridegroom placed it on the bride’s finger, but it slipped off on the floor; it would have gone round her wrist. The landlady brought a half a gallon of ale in and we drank ‘Long life and prosperity’ to the newly-wedded pair.

    And for the musically inclined, here is Sandy Denny’s Let’s Jump the Broomstick

    1 Oct 2013: Jumping the broomstick: NPN writes in I don’t know about brookstick-jumping for weddings, but this sounds awfully similar to a form of military marriage described in Capt. Francis Grose’s Vulgar Tongue dictionary of 1785, in which the groom (a soldier) and his bride-to-be jump over a sword: LEAPING OVER THE SWORD. An ancient ceremonial said to constitute a military marriage. A sword being laid down on the ground, the parties to be married joined hands, when the corporal or serjeant of the company repeated  these words: Leap rogue, and jump whore, And then you are married for evermore. Whereupon the happy couple jumped hand in hand over the sword, the drum beating a ruffle; and the parties were ever after considered as man and wife. I don’t know if jumping the broomstick predates this, or if both appeared at the same time, or if even they derive from an older ritual–Grose is quiet on the subject of broomstick jumping. **** Fred L writes in Hi, Doctor was having breakfast & reading your latest work when I came across jumping the broom. I learned some years ago that African Americans also have this custom. Here’s some info: Jumping the broom – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia I used to have a book on wedding customs and don’t know what I did with it. Otherwise, I’d have cited a page for you. I wonder if some Afro-British folks do this as well. **** Borky next: Beach as a kid in the Sixties my female relatives as well as plenty of local woman used the phrase “That’s jumping the brush!” which was used to mean 1) committing to something on a more serious basis than someone was ready for 2) assuming something was go’n’o happen without the slightest proof it would. The explanation given to me at the time was it was to do with the supposed powers attributed to chimney sweeps and their brooms hence the tradition then of hiring them to attend weddings or to bless sick people but even as a schoolboy I developed the thesis it was actually an evolvement of very ancient pre shamanic beliefs which’d attached themselves to blacksmiths then to sweeps due to their abilities to manipulate fire then to revive dead fire places. Even the term daft as a brush used by Bobby Robson of Gazza connotes the idea of mental impairment which’s somehow akin to divine inspiration. I also have a suspicion Arabian and Spanish beliefs about brujas which seems to’ve been pronounced something like broosha when Islam conquered Spain may’ve become entangled with it due to the similarity in pronuniciation to brush though there may also be much deeper connections. **** Thanks to both Fred and NPN and Borky!